Carswell: Free Liberal. How it might have been

The more time I spend with him (Carswell), the more bewildered I am. Why on earth did he join Ukip? Well, he says, he could hardly have moved over to Clegg’s lot. “If the Liberal Democrats hadn’t made 20 years of errors, yes. But they have made it very clear that they’re not liberal and that they’re on the side of the elites, not the people.” If Gladstone was such a hero, why didn’t he stand as an independent one-man Liberal party candidate? He laughs. “Well I toyed with the idea…

Interview with Douglas Carswell, The Guardian, 19th October 2014

28th August 2014

Before a packed room of journalists, all looking around eagerly for suspected impresario Nigel Farage to emerge, Douglas Carswell finally stepped out onto the stage, alone, having called a press conference only hours beforehand. He announced that, after a long struggle with his conscience, he had come to a decision:

“The main parties are not serious about real change. It’s above all the failure to deliver on the promise of political reform that has driven me to be here today. Europe’s the one continent on the globe that is not growing … yet who in Westminster, who among our so-called leaders, is prepared to envisage real change? The call for an independent, reformist, libertarian voice is a demand I feel I can no longer ignore.”

Carswell had decided that enough was enough. Unconvinced by David Cameron’s resolution to seek European reform, and frustrated by cross-party stasis on parliamentary recall, he had dramatically opted to throw off the Tory whip. However, rather than being the first MP of the parliament to defect to UKIP, as had long been considered a possibility in Westminster circles, Carswell, after what he described as “a long night of the political soul” had decided to plough a different path. His progressive techno-idealism, as well as his ease with modern, cosmopolitan Britain would have made him an odd candidate for UKIP (as he acknowledged: “I suspect I would have been a rather vocal square peg in a round hole with UKIP, and I’ve had enough of that for now.”)

He then further electrified the gathering, by announcing that he would resign and fight a by-election in his seat of Clacton, rather than remaining in the House unchallenged until May 2015. Most surprisingly, he would fight under the banner of a ‘Free Liberal’ candidate, distinct and independent from any established party.  In doing so, he claimed, he would “stir up the Conservative sleepwalkers, show Labour what real opposition looked like, and “teach the Lib Dem’s a few things about Gladstonian principles.” All this, whilst maintaining a Eurosceptic, modern ‘explosively-reformist’ position. The assembled journalists laughed heartily when Carswell closed by saying “and yes, I did have last minute qualms about using the ‘L’ word, but it appears Nick Clegg’s lot aren’t doing a lot with it as a concept, so, finders keepers.”

The first Conservative reaction was from William Hague, an hour later. The former Tory Leader was combative but fairly generous about his former colleague’s decision:

It is a regrettable decision, and we continue to believe that the only chance of having a referendum where people can decide to stay in the EU or leave the EU is having a majority Conservative government at the election next year. Anything that makes that more difficult damages the chances of change in Europe or the people in this country having their say. However, Mr Carswell claims to be motivated by Liberal principle, and that is a very rare thing indeed. As this parliament has taught us

At that jibe at the Lib Dems, there were sniggers from the press. Mr Hague continued:

“We can only hope that when the Referendum is delivered in 2017 by a Conservative Government, Mr Carswell will look around at his company on the opposition benches and say, “Oh dear me”.”

The meaning was taken, but a quick-witted reporter instantly pointed out that Mr Hague seemed to be assuming that Mr Carswell would still be in the Commons in 2017, then? Mr Hague smiled and declined to comment.

David Cameron, that evening, was less cheeky than his Yorkshire colleague and more magnanimous, praising Carswell’s contributions to the debate and to the Conservative 2010 manifesto, whilst hoping that he would one day return to the Conservative fold. The Prime Minister seemed like an indulgent parent shaking his head at a minor act of adolescent folly. Most likely, Cameron simply could not believe his luck. If Carswell had had to go, this was probably the best way. Truth be told, the Conservative leadership seemed so relieved that a UKIP defection had been averted, that a less-threatening defection to their perceived ‘Left’ almost seemed a pre-recess treat.

Nigel Farage was restrained at first, not sure whether to even acknowledge Carswell’s decision as a defeat for UKIP, which it was certainly in danger of being seen as. The following morning, Farage gave an interview, looking jovial, revealing that he and Carswell had “had lunches” and “arm-wrestled over his choice until the Sun came up, twice” (giving political cartoonists an absurdist field day.) In the end, Farage described Carswell’s stand as “a victory for the conscience of the British people” and, referencing a famous speech by Margaret Thatcher, dubbed Carswell “a dead parrot from the ashes.”

Clubbable and amusing though all this was, Farage made much more of an impact when, on 31st August, he announced that UKIP would not be running a candidate in Clacton, out of respect for Mr Carswell’s principles and reformist drive. This was the same decision UKIP had made in 2010, recognising Carswell’s outspoken Euroscepticism. This had clearly come as a surprise to Roger Lord, UKIP’s planned candidate for the constituency in 2015, who would fall out publicly with Farage, before quitting UKIP and eventually endorsing the Conservatives. Of course, as some pundits noted, Farage’s party already had a by-election on the horizon to consider in Heywood and Middleton, following the recent death of veteran Labour MP Jim Dobbin.

The Labour Party seemed to not quite know how to react. Ed Miliband’s Automatic crowing over “the Conservative Party in chaos” and “a hammer blow for Mr Cameron” seemed unconvincing, as did his claim that Mr Carswell, if he was serious about reform, should have defected to Labour. The interviewer’s response of “Why??”, followed by Miliband’s slightly too-long pause and grimace, went viral almost instantly. The rest of Labour’s front-bench remained mostly silent, perhaps sensing that this was not their fight. All their habitual attacks, whether honed on the Tories or the Lib Dems, suddenly seemed to need urgent revision. But this was nothing compared to the confusion of the Lib Dem response….

Nick Clegg’s immediate, welcoming attitude (“welcome to the large Liberal Family, Douglas”) was met with a tweet from Carswell-

“welcome to redundancy, @NickClegg #FreeLiberal”

-which was manically retweeted on all sides of the political spectrum. Vince Cable was less gauche (“Let’s see where this gets us”) as were many backbench Lib Dems. Suddenly, it seemed, there was no such thing as ‘on-message’ for the Lib Dems, maybe because of the lack of a real message regarding Europe in the first place. The awkward fact dawned: Euroscepticism was now, overnight, a Liberal concern, and Carswell, unrestrained by the Lib Dem whips, or seemingly, anything else, was suddenly the incarnation of every Lib Dem worry, large or small, about the Party’s direction of travel. As Stephen Tall, Lib Dem commentator, wrote on August 30th; “the fire of Liberalism has been given new oxygen. The only problem, for the Liberal Democrats, is that it is our house that is on fire, and our house is built of disappointed, volatile kindling, which half- longs for the flames.”  

Reaction from the newspapers was nuanced, but generally positive towards Carswell. The Independent endorsed his reforming, crusading spirit, whilst The Guardian seemed to cautiously identify in the former Tory the zeal and fearlessness perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be lacking in Ed Miliband. The Times tutted over his incaution, whilst stressing the inevitability of such a move, as a reaction to Westminster uniformity. The tabloids were split. The Sun gave him a personal backing, obviously endorsed by Rupert Murdoch, sensing mischief to be had at Cameron, Miliband and Clegg’s expense. The Express, too far committed to UKIP to bend, went with ‘ONE MORE BLEEDIN LIBERAL’ the next morning. The Mail took a more ‘wait-and-see’ attitude (“CARSWELL CALLS OUT CLEGG”.)  The Telegraph touted Carswell as “brave” and “a rare talent”, and Tim Montgomerie at ConservativeHome hinted that Carswell, “perhaps without meaning to, has invented a conservative Third Way” (between the Cameron Tories and UKIP).

Steve Radford, the president of the rump and near-forgotten Liberal Party, which had eked out an existence with a few councillors since 1988, pointed out that Carswell already had a receptive home in their diminished camp, an offer from which Carswell gallantly (and only slightly awkwardly) excused himself. It was clear that Carswell was already having far too much fun as “the loudest nuisance voice in the land” (his words) to be tied to any grouping, although he pointedly did not limit his future options, when interrogated by eager journalists. The fight in Clacton would not be easy. With the constituency lacking a natural ‘liberal’ base to co-opt, Carswell’s personal appeal and outsider drive would have a mountain to climb. He seemed to both acknowledge this, and, terrifyingly for his opponents, to genuinely relish it.

The Westminster script had been thrown out the window. Some journalists had expected a leadership challenge to Cameron, others had expected a publicity coup by Farage by securing a defection. But Carswell had followed his independent conscience, and in doing so, had filled the House of Commons cellar with gunpowder. And one particular Party Leader, already beset by troubles, had more cause to worry than most…

But first, September had arrived, and the Scottish Referendum approached….

* David Faggiani is a young-ish Liberal living in London, ex-smoker and co-founder of 'Game of Seats' political discussion group on Facebook and Twitter.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

50 Comments

  • I thought the final paragraph would be UKIP winning in Heywood and Middleton, as they weren’t distracted by Clacton. Enjoyable read – thanks

  • Richard Dean 26th Oct '14 - 6:41pm

    It’s certainly a pity that the LibDems seem to have lost their way. As a liberal and democrat, Carswell will hopefully bring some sanity to UKIP, which will be a very good thing.

  • You know I was thinking the same thing being half way through his book, which is excellent and a recommended read for all liberals, I’ve agreed with a huge amount of it so far. He could have fitted in well, except for his views on Europe I guess..

  • Igor Sagdejev 26th Oct '14 - 7:13pm

    The problem is not ” views on Europe”, the problem is obsession with Europe.

  • Conor McGovern 26th Oct '14 - 7:13pm

    It’s a shame that our party’s defence of a bloated, undemocratic EU and the leadership’s failure to stand up for its voters and supporters have driven away liberals of all shades and none. In Carswell’s case, part of me wonders whether his willingness to join the Tories and Ukip makes him much of a liberal, but the wider point can be found in our dire poll figures, plummeting from 23% to as low as 6%. Where has the goal of building a broad-church liberal movement gone?

  • Stevan Rose 26th Oct '14 - 7:39pm

    Undemocratic EU? In what way undemocratic? It has directly and indirectly elected institutions and a civil service headed by people nominated by elected leaders. We are members because a referendum confirmed our membership. All decisions of note have required the input and agreement of our elected democratic government. It actually uses both qualified majority voting and unanimity in most decisions. Even the recent debacle of the £1.7bn surcharge was something our elected government willingly signed up to.

  • Conor McGovern 26th Oct '14 - 7:47pm

    @Stevan – the EU Parliament is little more than a rubber-stamp parliament, the real power lies with the Commission, which is unelected. I don’t see how an organisation that uses blackmail to ram austerity down elected governments’ throats (see Greec, Cyprus) is very liberal either.

  • Conor McGovern 26th Oct '14 - 7:47pm

    *Greece

  • paul barker 26th Oct '14 - 8:15pm

    There are positive aspects to the growth of UKIP, in the sense of “Creative Destruction”. They have destoyed The BNP & are doing a good job of dividing both Tories & Labour.
    However they have nothing positive to contribute & are a mass of idiot prejudice. The mere fact that Carswell chose to join UKIP makes him unfit for The Libdems.
    Theres a long way to May, its not just that the People havent spoken, they havent even started thinking seriously about the Election yet; when they do we will have a serious case to make. UKIP wont.

  • Paul Barker — you say it is a long way to May.

    Which calendar are you working on Paul? My constituency organiser sent me a text to say that it is only 193 days to polling day?

  • Igor Sagdejev 26th Oct '14 - 8:42pm

    @paul barker “we will have a serious case to make”

    I wonder what this case would be?

    UKIP, as any bubbling popullist party, will run its course. But not in this election’s time frame. And, let us be frank, they have an able leader. Unlike us.

  • Paul Barker

    Just out of curiosity, what’s your current estimate of the date when the Labour party will collapse and be overtaken by the Lib Dems in the polls?

  • Stevan Rose 26th Oct '14 - 9:04pm

    @Conor. The Commission is the civil service of the EU. Its leaders are appointed by national elected governments. We do not elect our civil service and there is no expectation that it should be. The Council is formed from national elected governments. Legislation is vested in Parliament and Council. The Commission may propose legislation but cannot pass it. It enforces legislation passed by the directly and indirectly elected bodies. Parliament can dismiss the Commission. There are close similarities in some areas with the US executive branch. By its nature and function the Commission cannot be elected but it is far more accountable to elected politicians than our own executive branch.

  • I’m not sure where the confusion between libertarian and liberal arises. They are clearly not the same thing. So what possible relevance Carswell has to the Liberal Democrats, I don’t know.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '14 - 5:14am

    I used to be a libertarian, but I’m not anymore and for good reason. It is possible to agree with ideas from elsewhere, without importing all the dogma too.

    The public won’t accept hands off government. I’ve never accepted it. Even when I thought I agreed with it, once I saw the policy ideas, such as getting rid of a lot of the security service, I had a fright.

    We need to tackle inequality too. The two founders of Whatsapp worked for five years and then sold their company for $19 billion. It’s property rights gone mad. This get rich quick tech stuff is going to create problems in society by creating an oversupply of tech workers and an undersupply of other things we need, such as nurses and farmers.

    Regards

  • John Roffey 27th Oct '14 - 6:13am

    @ Eddie Sammon

    In an article in today’s Guardian, Paul Mason highlights an interesting fact:

    “… the most striking thing about the Ukip voters polled was their educational background: 76% finished their education between the ages of 15 and 18. No other party comes close to being so heavily concentrated among voters who didn’t go to university. It has nothing to do with “intelligence” – a large percentage of people who vote Ukip simply took a non-academic route to their current place on the income scale.

    If you combine this with the fact that Ukip votes spread across all income groups, you come up with the demographic whereby the 2015 election will be won or lost: people who’ve worked their entire adult lives have been shaped by unskilled and semi-skilled hard work.

    So what have such people lost from globalisation? Materially, wages. Whether east European migration really does place an extra downward pressure on low-skilled wages is disputed. What you can’t dispute is that those breaking away from the three main parties believe so from experience. On top of that, globalisation – combined with the info-tech revolution – exerts a downward pressure on incomes, “hollowing out” middle income jobs and making it harder to climb out of low pay.

    Nobody in power gets to live that experience: there is nobody in parliament, or our major media organisations, or the senior civil service or the boardroom, who has recently delivered homecare in 15-minute slots, or worked in an e-commerce fulfilment centre, or ground out the tachograph hours as a self-employed haulage contractor.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/26/mainstream-politics-is-imploding-is-discontent-with-globalisation-the-cause

    It seems that it is the lack of realism within the Westminster Bubble that has separated the old mainstream parties from UKIP and probably the Greens – who could become the two new mainstream parties in the near future – because there is very little likelihood that those currently living in the ‘Bubble’ will actually go and try doing what they expect others to do.

  • Caracatus

    Gladstone started as a reactionary Tory (defending the family interests in West Indian slavery for example) but he changed. This was the man after all who brought in free compulsory state education for all. The very thing that Paul Marshall and the Orange Book Movement are keen to unpick.

  • John Roffey 27th Oct ’14 – 6:13am
    “…Nobody in power gets to live that experience: there is nobody in parliament, or our major media organisations, or the senior civil service or the boardroom, who has recently delivered homecare in 15-minute slots, or worked in an e-commerce fulfilment centre, or ground out the tachograph hours as a self-employed haulage contractor.”

    Good point, John Roffey.
    And it is fascinating that educational background defines UKIP voters in this way. Although my guess is that this would have also defined the traditional Tory working class voter? People often forget that the Conservatives (and particularly the Unionist element of that party) always had strong support from some sections of the working class, especially those who could be whipped up by jingoism, xenophobia, love of the monarchy and nostalgia for a better yesterday.

  • John Roffey 27th Oct '14 - 8:40am

    @ John Tilley

    I am not sure that it matters exactly what those whose lives have become markedly worse, both in reward and working conditions, believe in – it is change to something better that they seek. They would probably agree to the Queen being made a goddess or her being executed – if it brought the change they want.

    The three ‘traditional’ main parties are all offering, more of the same – with only minor adjustments, so they are bound to turn to another party which offers a different solution – certainly whilst they see the richest’s rewards rapidly increasing.

  • A thought provoking piece, thanks!

    @JohnTilley 27th Oct ’14 – 7:18am

    “Gladstone started as a reactionary Tory (defending the family interests in West Indian slavery for example) but he changed. This was the man after all who brought in free compulsory state education for all. The very thing that Paul Marshall and the Orange Book Movement are keen to unpick.”

    Glad to see we can agree on the importance of the GOM to the modern party, John – but would wager that he’d feel the state today was too big and doing unnecessary things. Rowing back from this and reinvesting the money in matters that he could consider ‘morally’ right would be welcome.

    As Eddie Sammon has correctly stated, there is certainly a difference between Liberal and Libertarian. As Nick Clegg said after Leveson, he is the former and not the latter. As a movement we have to believe that there are things which only a government can do to provide and protect liberty that an individual can’t, that is why we are the movement that spawned both William Beveridge as well as Free Trade. Douglas Carswell, thoughtful though he is, doesn’t capture these two elements.

    I feel sure that Gladstone would have little time for many of his positions, how can further tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy be moraly right?, though maybe he shares a similarity with his obsession for Europe as the GOM did for Ireland. He is certainly more GOM admirer than Disraelite, but his view of and understanding of what drives a Liberal is narrow, sketchy and lacks the basic principles which holds the various wings of this party together.

  • Will there be a time when the Party stops discussing politicians of a long-gone era and starts focusing on the realities of today?

    22/10 CON 30%, LAB 21%, LDEM 3%, UKIP 43%, GREEN 3% [Rochester]

    25/10 Opinium/Observer – CON 33, LAB 33, LD 6, UKIP 18, GRN 4

    26/10 YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 33, LAB 33, LD 7, UKIP 16, GRN 6

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Oct '14 - 12:59pm

    David Faggiani

    He then further electrified the gathering, by announcing that he would resign and fight a by-election in his seat of Clacton, rather than remaining in the House unchallenged until May 2015. Most surprisingly, he would fight under the banner of a ‘Free Liberal’ candidate, distinct and independent from any established party. In doing so, he claimed, he would “stir up the Conservative sleepwalkers, show Labour what real opposition looked like, and “teach the Lib Dem’s a few things about Gladstonian principles.”

    And then we will all say “Oh gosh, none of us have ever thought about such things before, we really needed Douglas Carswell to tell us how to be proper Liberals”?

    Er, no, I don’t think so. Liberal Democrat Voice has been full of arguments between those who want to interpret “Liberal” as meaning pushing out things that were done by government to private business, cutting taxes, and the general “small state” idea. There is an obsession among the political elite with that sort of political line, but there seems to be very littler interest in it among the general public. The elite types pushing it like to call it things like “Gladstonian Liberalism” or “classical liberalism” or the like, because that makes it sound much more respectable and like something that has sound historical roots. However, they tend to be selective on those aspects of what REAL 19th century Liberals said and did that they want to promote, and they tend to ignore all those aspects of society and the world that have changed since those days which mean that ideas that applied in those days may not work out quite the same now. What they are actually about is weakening democracy and strengthening the new aristocracy of the international financial elite, and they pick out only those aspects of Gladstone and the like which suit that agenda. Real 19th century Liberals operated in an environment where private business was mostly small scale, not multi-national, and could still be held up as challenging the powers of what was then the establishment: the landed aristocracy and the established Church. Real Liberals at the time of Gladstone tended to be pragmatic about the role of the state, and not always screaming out about how bad it is to have anything run by the state, unlike those who claim to be their successors and like to call themselves “Gladstonians” today. Modern big business has replaced the landed aristocracy and the established church as the establishment, that is why I say that those people today who want to push everything out to private business are very far from what Gladstonian liberalism was about, however much they want to describe themselves by that term.

    But I’ve said this here, many, many times, so have others. We have had long arguments about it when some of the essays in the Orange Book were pushing that sort of line, and more recently when Jeremy Browne wrote a book pushing that sort of line, and response to various well-funded think tanks pushing that sort of line, and in response to others pushing that sort of line such as the famous Richard Reeves “why don’t all you activists just leave and join Labour?” New Statesman article. So, really, what is the point of once again bringing up this idea as if it’s all new? It’s not new, it’s tiresome. The big question today is why, when since the days of Margaret Thatcher all our governments have pushed things that way, people mostly DON’T feel it has enhanced their freedom.

    Following the formation of the coalition, most of our former voters seem to think we have gone that way anyway, seem to think we have become fanatics for privatisation and tax-cutting, seeing as how we seem to be going along with the Conservatives doing it. And our vote has plummetted, with people accusing us of having “abandoned our principles” for seemingly having moved this way. There doesn’t seem to be any demand for that sort of thing in the electorate as a whole, and most people who do want it seem to think the Conservative Party is the best place to go to get it.

    Most UKIP voters seem unaware of the extent to which leading members at the top of UKIP and those who fund it are keen supporters of this sort of extreme free market ideology. It is very frustrating to find people saying they will vote UKIP as a protest against “politics these days is all about policies to make the rich richer and the poor poorer”, when UKIP actually stands for the same sort of policies but in a more extreme form. It’s the immigration thing which is winning UKIP votes (though a real “classical liberal” line would be against immigration controls), plus UKIP having managed to give the impression it will somehow turn the clock back to an imaginary golden age when it has no policies that could really do that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Oct '14 - 1:24pm

    I agree with Matthew Huntbach’s comment.

    Nostalgia for the Gladstone era from some Liberals of the orange book/free liberal persuasion is bordering on the mythological. As John Tilley said, Mr Gladstone brought in state education when it was being run by charities, individual benefactors and churches in a very ‘free market’ way. Dickens writes about it very forcefully.

    If Gladstone was as ‘free liberal’ as Carswell and others suggest, he would have run a mile from state education – but he didn’t.

  • @John Roffey

    And your suggested answer to the realities of today is what?

    The answer to getting more votes seems to be to promise the unachievable and the unaffordable and blame everything on someone else e.g. foreigners, bankers.

    Is that what you are suggesting should be our new direction?

  • John Roffey 27th Oct '14 - 2:34pm

    @ RC

    “And your suggested answer to the realities of today is what?”

    I don’t believe there are many members who do not know that getting rid of NC is the first priority – things will continue to worsen up until polling day with him as leader. If things go as badly as they look as if they will – it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, even with a ‘liked’ new leader – to reinvigorate a Party which has become an ‘also ran’.

    The problem is that ‘liberal’ does not mean anything to the vast majority of today’s voters – and today’s new parties have a clear central message – which means something to the majority. UKIP – EU/immigration; Greens – Climate Change/ The Environment.

    There are now few big issues left where the the Party could be the standard bearer – probably only one – Democracy.

    The Westminster Bubble/Ruling Elite have become common parlance – it is recognized that the old main parties do not govern for the benefit of the nation or the people – but for themselves and their backers. That is why there is so little difference between their policies.

    Introduce a system of Direct Democracy that fits with our culture – using Goldsmith’s ‘True Recall’, a beefed up Petitions system and Referendums when there are large changes to be introduced. Call the Party – the Democrats.

    I know these changes will not be adopted – but you did ask!

  • @ Stevan

    Nice little summary of how wonderfully democratic and representative the institutions of the EU are in theory. How effective are they at actual governance?

    I put it to you that that in the real world in which we live,rather than some PR blurb put out by Brussels, these dreadful institutions created a failed economic union which lead to the largest debt restructuring in history and the imposition of what Nige called the “puppet government” in Greece.

    Further it caused an economic stagnation which has led to mass youth unemployment and the blighting of lives across most of the continent , and huge movements of people from one nation to another trying to escape. Meanwhile the rest of the world, Asia, and even the USA, races ahead in the global race while the EU implodes and contemplates its navel.

    There is far worse to cone though. The Euro crisis is far from over. Although you may not realise this, perhaps?

    British voters, however, demonstrate admirable good sense. You can get £4 profit for every £48 wagered at ladbrokes on a UKIP victory at Rochester.

    I trust the British voter over the European Commission myself. When the time comes for it to come to the test, which will be soon, IMO, I hope you do too.

    But I am guessing you and your party will put the Eurocrats ahead of the British people, as ever.

  • From the Guardian interview: “But they [the Lib Dems] have made it very clear that they’re NOT liberal and that they’re on the side of the elites, NOT the people.” (Emphasis added).

    It’s interesting that Carswell should think that. I rather suspect it’s also the conclusion of many former Lib Dem voters and indeed members about the direction the party has been taken in over the last few years.

  • simon 27th Oct ’14 – 3:12pm
    “….in the real world in which we live. ….”

    But your comments are not from the”real world” are they, simon? Your comments come from a world of your own imagination where utopia will be achieved by withdrawal from the EU. You fondly imagine that “The British People” agree with you.
    I look forward to your comment on 8th May when you attempt to explain away the fact that “The British People” have not elected a majority UKIP government.

  • More JS Mill and less Gladstone or Carswell, please!

  • @simon
    It’s not really a theory but actual practice. It suits your purposes to rail at the undemocratic Commission but there is no such thing anywhere as an elected civil service. Given the sums they administer the Commission is incredibly efficient. They have fewer staff than our own Home Office. The EU did not create the Eurozone, democratically elected politicians did that. We, fortunately as it turned out, opted out as it was those democrats who fudged and botched the entry criteria. So Greece is a mess because their elected government joined the Euro when they were not ready and the elected German government let them. The Greeks have only themselves to blame. They lived well beyond their means with few taxes being collected and borrowed to plug the gap. They would have gone bankrupt in or out of the Euro. The EU didn’t force the Greeks to spend money they didn’t have so why blame anyone else.

    Emerging economies often do have high growth rates but they can have equally dramatic reversals too. It would be highly dangerous for an economy such as ours to have high growth rates and the Bank of England would step in to slow it down by massive interest rate rises. Japan isn’t in the EU yet has had a decade or more of stagnation. Is the EU to blame for that nevertheless? Is the Commission to blame if you burn your toast or stub your toe? In your workd, probably.

    You trust the British voter over the Commission but they are only opposed in the UKIP imagination. There simply isn’t a choice to be made, you can have both. Less than a fifth of voters are saying they would vote UKIP even with all the misleading nonsense spouted. Amongst the under 40’s the numbers are tiny. The average life expectancy of a UKIP voter is significantly less than other parties, even the Tories

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Oct '14 - 11:36pm

    Bravo Stevan.

    Sadly, simon will resurface somewhere else, completely unaffected by logic. Still, well said.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Oct '14 - 11:39pm

    Jedi. That’s unworthy of you. There’s simply nothing in what Stevan says that raises that question and it’s underhand to imply as much. Deal with the argument actually made, please.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Oct '14 - 11:45am

    GF

    It’s interesting that Carswell should think that. I rather suspect it’s also the conclusion of many former Lib Dem voters and indeed members about the direction the party has been taken in over the last few years.

    But when Carswell says that the Liberal Democrats are “NOT liberal” what he actually means is this definition of “liberal” which economic right-wingers have invented in recent years and tried to claim is “Gladstonian” or “classical” or whatever. When Carswell calls himself a “Gladstonian liberal” he means that he;s a supporter of extreme free market economics and disagrees with the Tories because he thinks they’re a bit too socialist.

    Isn’t it that case that many former LibDem voters and members are unhappy because they think the party has moved too far in the direction of agreeing with the Conservatives about reducing the activity of the state and reducing taxation and putting out services to market competition? So do you really mean it, GF, when you suggest it’s the opposite – former supporters of the LibDems have stopped supporting the party because they think it hasn’t gone far enough in that direction? Because that IS what you are saying here when you say you agree with Carswell.

  • All these comments and nobody questions whether Carswell is merely fishing for Lib Dem votes for UKIP. The guy just left his party for another, now he’s saying he thought about joining a third. I don’t believe a word he says, UKIP have got this far by claiming “we’re just like you” and this is the same strategy for our benefit. If it’s this effective on members, it might actually work on some of the public.

    >You can get £4 profit for every £48 wagered at ladbrokes on a UKIP victory at Rochester.

    I’m sure they’ll make a great job of it, just like they have in the European Parliament and local government, and the people of Rochester will be eternally pleased with their choice. Either that or you’re easily persuaded by overtly simplistic political narrative and we’re all heading for big trouble! I wonder which it will be…

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Oct '14 - 11:48am

    simon

    I trust the British voter over the European Commission myself.

    Fine, so does that mean you think that the Westminster politicians are all wonderful people, and we have such good politics here that everyone is happy with the people and governments they elect?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Oct '14 - 12:07pm

    ChrisB

    All these comments and nobody questions whether Carswell is merely fishing for Lib Dem votes for UKIP. The guy just left his party for another, now he’s saying he thought about joining a third

    Er, I think the author of this article meant it as a “what if?” commentary, I don’t think it’s a report of something that has actually happened.

    As I have commented on earlier, there has been a concerted effort by supporters of extreme right-wing economics to try and steal the word “liberal” and get it to mean their sort of politics. It is a way of giving their sort of politics more credibility by making out it is just a continuation of what respected historical figures were all about.

    This mania for privatising everything and pushing people into poverty and ignorance by cutting down state provision has been a theme among the elite in this country for many years. The “Liberals/LibDems should adopt REAL liberalism” article meaning adopt Thatcherite economics, has been a standard in the Times or Telegraphor Spectator for many years now on the odd occasion when they’ve felt the need to say something about the party. Apart from internet trolls, and the modern equivalent of the 1980 Trots – people of limited intelligence and even more limited real world contact who want to appear clever by adopting a ready made answer-to-everything ideology – there is almost no interest in this sort of thing outside the wealthy elite whom it benefits.

    You can tell when someone has been “radicalised” and has got taken in by the propaganda pumped out in support of this ideology when they start dropping certain key phrases, just like there are usually tell-tale signs when people have become radicalised into other ideologies. Claiming to be “Gladstonian” is one of them. Or wanting to make big cuts in public services and calling that “authentic liberalism”.

    UKIP claim to be on the side of the people against the elite, but if you look at the politics of those at the top and those who fund them, this is what it is. The opposite of what many of its voters suppose it is about, but they are taken in because the right-wing press never highlights the contradiction, and even people like GF seem to be completely fooled by it.

  • Hey Matthew,

    >I think the author of this article meant it as a “what if?” commentary,
    >I don’t think it’s a report of something that has actually happened.

    I get that, I was referring to the interview that inspired it – Carswell suggested he contemplated the Lib Dems prior to defection (if you’re telling me the Guardian interview was fictional, then I’m confused!). I agree with what you’re saying, he is in the process of stealing the word Liberal for UKIP but my point was that we’ve given him too much credence. He’s just a product jostling for market share, and he wants a slice of Lib Dems now – I don’t see why people take him at face value. All things to all men – didn’t work for Lib Dems, won’t work for UKIP.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Oct '14 - 1:44pm

    ChrisB

    He’s just a product jostling for market share, and he wants a slice of Lib Dems now

    Well, only if he believes that there is a big batch of LibDem voters who are keen supporters of extreme free market economics. Since there isn’t, there’s no slice of the LibDems he’s going to get by taking this line. We have been losing support big time because of the belief of many of our former supporters that we have gone too far down this road, so why should anyone think there’s votes to be gained from former supporters who think we haven’t gone far enough down it?

    The reality is that the right-wing press pretended that it would be more supportive of us if only we became more right-wing, forced Nick Clegg on us as leader because of his right-wing economic nature, telling us he was by far the best person to lead us and hinted that if we accepted him they’d give us much more positive coverage – but as usual they have shown that however much we give in to what they say they want from us, they are never satisfied and will still run us down. They are now giving UKIP tacit support in a way they never would us, because it suits their underlying political nature. So they won’t expose the contradictions of UKIP, and they’ll always report the positive side of anything it says or does. The opposite applies to us.

    The right-wing press will never ever be our true friends. We should have learnt that lesson long ago.

  • David Faggiani 28th Oct '14 - 2:50pm

    Hello folks.

    Thanks very much for reading the article! It”s my first time writing for Lib Dem Voice, I’m really gratified at the number of comments it’s got, and the strength of feeling and disagreement, particularly around what ‘Liberalism’ should mean. I think counterfactuals are a really interesting (and emotive) way to look a tensions in groups and political tribes. I wouldn’t have written this if I didn’t care about Liberalism, its co-option, its definition, and its future direction.

    I am currently working on a follow-up covering September in this ‘Carswellian’ Continuity. That chapter will be about the same length, and will cover the Scotland Indy Ref, Party Conferences, the ISIS vote, and, of course, whatever Mark Reckless decides to do. Nearly done with that chapter…

    After that, I’ll cover October’s events: the twin by-elections in Clacton and Middleton, and the fallout…..

  • “Fine, so does that mean you think that the Westminster politicians are all wonderful people, and we have such good politics here that everyone is happy with the people and governments they elect?”

    Not at all. For my sins, I sat through the Committee Stage of the Recall Bill the other day on tape. It was depressing watching it in some ways, and obviously Goldsmith’s Amendment to give the people the power of recall was defeated by the Lib Dems pressuring the Tories (so it was alleged in the debate, no idea if it is true) but all the same there was some vestige of hope.

    Some MP’s were prepared to see the beginnings of real democractic renewal, and I think the Amendment got 170 odd votes, which is a start.

    Westminster is our only hope, or at least a renewed, re-energised, reconnected Westminster. It has gone though a lot in its history, and has needed to adapt. But in theory it is a great idea, and practically it usually gets there in the end. The only way for it to start getting there is pressure from UKIP, and today’s Com Res Poll putting us on 19% is fantastic news. 🙂

    The EU you can forget about. You are on the wrong side of history Matthew, it is finished. If you can’t see the way the British public is changing its view you can’t read politics. And the elite will have to change their policy, they can’t go against the people indefinitely. Not in our system.

    UKIP are the future. Join it and help shape this extraordinary movement in the direction you want it to go, rather than continuing with this tired, failed, legacy party, sticking to the European dream turned nightmare.

    We need our country back and anyone can join. Left or right, rich or poor, black, white or brown, Christian, Muslim or Jew.

    Forget the media slurs, it is not where you come from that matters to UKIP but where you want to go. To get our country back. To reclaim our sovereignty. To make parliamentary democracy what it used to be, something to be proud, not ashamed of.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '14 - 11:41am

    simon

    The EU you can forget about. You are on the wrong side of history Matthew, it is finished. If you can’t see the way the British public is changing its view you can’t read politics.

    I support membership of the EU for the pragmatic reason that I think international co-operation is essential in the modern world, so many of the problems we face: economic, environmental, and with what is going on worldwide cannot be tackled at the level of individual European nations. That doesn’t mean I think the existing organisation of the EU is perfect, far from it, nor does it mean I have some sort of “European dream”. People like you keep throwing out these accusations at anyone who doesn’t agree with you, it’s part of the propaganda game you play. Because so much of the Westminster Bubble is on your side – I mean large parts of the Conservative Party and most of the national press – you can get away with this, your biased portrayal of the situation tends to be reported as if it is fact rather than opinion.

    I don’t think the British people have been given a fair coverage of this issue so that they can properly make up their mins based in the facts. Rather they have been fed huge amounts of biased opinion. Most people in this country have little idea what the EU is about, how it works, what it does. So they oppose it because they are told by you and the press that it is a bad thing.

    I have accepted, which many Liberal Democrats have not, that there are genuine reasons why people at the lower end of the wealth and social standing scale in this country fear immigration, and it should not be written off as just due to “racism”. Your party is able to work on this fear and it is the main reason why you are gaining support.

    However, I don’t believe your party has any policies “To get our country back. To reclaim our sovereignty. To make parliamentary democracy what it used to be, something to be proud, not ashamed of”. None whatsoever. It is paid for by city fat cats, and as we have seen with Carswell those at the top of it are free market fanatics, who support the sort of economic policy which has wrecked what was traditional about Britain, which has caused the huge growth in inequality and general unhappiness which your party benefits from. In short, you are like quacks who are selling a medicine which causes the very symptoms it claims to cure.

    I have read plenty from you now, simon, but it is all empty. All you are doing is issuing bombastic remarks and boasting about the support you get – due to the right-wing press being in your side. Well, you can see why they would do that. The right-wing policies of the Tories have failed, so to prevent politics shifting to the left they promote an even more right-wing party, yours, as the way for those badly affected by the policies they support to go. However, when it comes down to actual real political solutions to the problems of this country, you have none. The people who fund you want to get Britain out of the EU to put it even more into the hands of the global financial elite, the main thing they dislike about the EU is the way its international co-operations stands in the way of the power of big money playing one country off against another. This is the opposite of “getting our country back”, it is the opposite of “reclaiming our sovereignty”.

    I have made these points many time to you, simon, but you have been unable to give any reply to them. Just the usual empty boasting. You have no answers, you are a bunch of con-men.

  • Hey Matthew,

    >only if he believes that there is a big batch of LibDem voters
    >who are keen supporters of extreme free market economics.

    You really believe that most voters are conscious of what they’re voting for? That they read the fine print and can identify extreme free market ideas? I don’t believe that at all, I think there’s a significant minority of Lib Dem voters (15-20%) that follow a line of “s/he seems pragmatic and down to earth”, which UKIP could certainly eat into, if they can appear to be all things to all people and get the “Right” press. I believe it’s a small minority of voters that could tell you manifesto specifics for the party they just voted for.

    Come the day all sorts of people will vote UKIP, for the exact same reasons none of them spotted the extreme free-market thinking and it’s implications. They’re not bothered about that, they’ve been marketed to and they’ve bought in – listen to “simon” above, he really believes the populist marketing and says things like “the EU you can forget about”. That’s what we’re dealing with, I’m one of those people that loathes everything turning into a WWII analogy, but it’s hard to avoid the comparisons.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '14 - 9:30pm

    ChrisB

    You really believe that most voters are conscious of what they’re voting for? That they read the fine print and can identify extreme free market ideas? I don’t believe that at all,

    I don’t believe it at all either, isn’t that rather clear from my reply to “simon”?

    My point is about the specific reference to “Gladstonian liberal”, which is a phrase that extreme free market people like to use, and they know what they mean by it. If THAT phrase were used to attract voters from the LibDems, then it would be a conscious reference to extreme free market policies – even though, as I have also said, it’s a fiddle when that is linked to the historical figure of Gladstone, because there is a lot of difference between what people like him were actually about and what modern free market fanatics are about.

    It’s a point I’ve been making myself continually – UKIP are conning people, getting the votes of so many who have been made miserable by the free market politics of New Labour and the Conservatives and the Orange Bookers in the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, while themselves standing for an even more extreme version of the same policies.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Oct '14 - 10:00pm

    David Faggiani

    I think counterfactuals are a really interesting (and emotive) way to look a tensions in groups and political tribes. I wouldn’t have written this if I didn’t care about Liberalism, its co-option, its definition, and its future direction.

    Your article is full of attacks on the Liberal Democrats for not being “Liberal” and supposing that supporters of extreme right-wing economic policies in the Conservative Party are in some way so “Liberal” that they can teach Liberal Democrats how to be “Liberal”. It is, to be frank, David, a disgrace. You may say it is counterfactual, but it makes sense even as a counterfactual, only if you are sympathetic to the claims of people like Carswell that they are “Liberals” in a way that Liberal Democrats are not.

    We are losing huge number of voters because the coalition and the dominance of the “Orange Bookers” in the party leadership have given the impression that our party is much further to the right than people who used to support it supposed it to be. People are leaving us in disgust, saying that our support for cuts in taxes and cuts in state services means we have abandoned our principles. Yet you are saying here that “Liberal” principles mean this whole “small state” idea, which people who use the term “Gladstonian” of themselves these days interpret as cutting taxes and cutting state services and privatising everything.

    There is NO popular demand for this sort of politics in this country. It is something of interest only to a tiny wealthy elite, but because they are wealthy they have been able to push it in all sorts of ways. It is something that has been pushed like this for decades now, back in the days of Margaret Thatcher the wealthy elite liked to push the idea that she was somehow an “old-fashioned liberal”. Yet while the elite at the top of right-wing parties go in for this sort of thing, most of the votes they get are from old-fashioned small-c conservatives.This we see in UKIP – as ChrisB says, people aren’t looking at the smallprint of what UKIP is about and who funds it, so they are expressing support for it even while at the same time expressing disgust at the other political parties for pushing the same idea.

  • “When did the lib(dems)erals stop challenging institutions, Steven?”

    Challenges should be intelligent. Not all institutions are bad all of the time. It serves no good purpose to assign blame to the EU Commission for Greek woes when culpability lies with the Greek Government for borrowing way beyond their capacity to repay. And the German government for egging them on as an undervalued Euro suited German export ambitions. The Commission was commissioned to try and sort out the mess.

    It’s far too easy to blame administrators for the sins of the leaders. Another ever popular target are NHS managers without whom hospitals would cease to operate. I don’t want heart surgeons sorting out the computers and ordering the loo rolls and gloves. So you need great managers. Target the bad managers but not the concept of having to administer a highly complex institution like a hospital with less money than it needs. Target the politicians who re-organise the NHS every 4 to 5 years for political point scoring reasons only but in doing so waste huge sums of money telling administrators to pull down and rebuild everything they have done. It is not the administrators fault!

    Challenge the culpable people and the culpable institutions not the convenient scapegoats.

  • Stevan Rose 29th Oct ’14 – 11:43pm

    Stevan, I was delighted to read your comment about NHS managers. This easy cliched attack by lazy media and lazy politicians of all parties is tiresome to say the least. Like you I do not want heart surgeons ordering the loo rolls and gloves.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNigel Jones 20th Oct - 12:49pm
    We have not been explaining to people why we should remain or why a hard Brexit will harm our country, I said this in a...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 20th Oct - 12:24pm
    @Martin Up to now she has done well, but we are heading into a dangerous phase and we need to move on and positively promote...
  • User AvatarBarry Lofty 20th Oct - 12:21pm
    Let's be honest every Tory government from John Major onwards has always looked over its shoulder at the far right of their party any middle...
  • User AvatarMartin 20th Oct - 12:13pm
    It is comforting to see David Becket revert to his accustomed role of decrying the leadership. My only question to him is 'What took you...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 20th Oct - 12:09pm
    As expected, a thoughtful and liberal article by Martin. There is a clear problem with staff recruitment and quality control. I would argue privatisation of...
  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 20th Oct - 12:07pm
    Can we stop asserting that the U.K. leaving the EU, aka Brexit, will inevitably be “a disaster”. You see there are many kinds of Brexit....